Lawsuits targeting ADA website compliance are on the rise. Is your business at risk?
What is the ADA?
The Americans with Disabilities Act is a civil rights law that protects disabled Americans. It bans discrimination against people with physical limitations.
The third title of this law is where businesses run into trouble with ADA website compliance. No direct mention is made of the internet. However, a commercial website is public domain. For example, “reasonable accommodations” must be made to ensure a blind person can fill out an online job application. Prior notice is not required before a lawsuit is filed. Failure to update a business website may result in court proceedings, with settlement rates averaging at around $15,000.
In 2016, Guillermo Robles who is visually impaired, filed suit against Domino’s Pizza. He sought an order requiring compliance with web accessibility guidelines. Initially, a district court judge dismissed his case. But in January of this year, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit reversed, ruling that the pizza chain’s online offerings must also be accessible to disabled customers. Three years later Robles v. Domino’s LLC remains unsettled.
It was decided that the Department of Justice would regulate the terms for ADA website compliance. But thus far the DOJ has not stepped up to the task. This means the courts define their own standards, which is where the W3C enters the picture.
The World Wide Web Consortium is an international community of businesses and governments. They came together to set universal guidelines for website accessibility. There are over four hundred members. Counted among them are Apple and Google.
Lacking sufficient support from the DOJ, courts rely heavily on the W3C’s expertise. But inconsistencies remain an issue. There is debate about whether or not “public accommodations” should even extend to nonphysical locations, i.e., websites.
W3C guidelines offer compliance levels that fit a spectrum of criteria. It ranges from WCAG 2.0 level A, to the most recent, and strictest, WCAG 2.1. All levels require extra coding to ensure websites are available to disabled individuals to the extent their limitations allow.
ADA Website Compliance and Your Business
The internet was not so woven into our lives when the Americans with Disabilities Act was signed into law. It was 1990. In person discrimination was the primary concern. The vague rules surrounding commercial websites are challenging for those who wish to honor ADA regulations, but aren’t sure how. Lawmakers are still working towards a solution.
In the meantime, to safeguard themselves, business owners need to consider the accessibility of their web content to the hearing or visually impaired, and other individuals who use assistive technologies to mitigate their disability, such as screen readers, or voice controlled navigation.
Peace of mind is a worthwhile investment. Website updates can seem overwhelming, but they don’t have to be. Contact us at D-Kode Tech for a consultation. We’re here to help.